Welcome to Moonlight Harbor
See dentist at noon
Drop Sabrina off at Mom’s
Meet everyone at Casa Roja at six
Or just tell them I’ve got bubonic plague and cancel
The four women seated at a corner booth in the Mexican restaurant were getting increasingly noisier with each round of drinks. Cinco de Mayo had come and gone, but these ladies still had something to celebrate, as they were all dressed in body-con dresses or slinky tops over skinny jeans, in killer shoes and wearing boas. There were four of them, all pretty, all still in their thirties – except the guest of honor, who was wearing a black dress, a sombrero and a frown. She was turning forty.
It was going to take a while for her to get as jovial as the others (like about a million years) considering what she’d just gotten for her birthday. A divorce.
“Here’s to being free of rotten scum-sucking, cheating husbands,” toasted Celeste, sister of the guest of honor. She was thirty-five, single, and always in a party mood.
The birthday girl, formerly Jenna Petit, took another sip of her mojito. She could get completely sloshed if she wanted. She wasn’t driving and she didn’t have to worry about setting a good example for her daughter, Sabrina, who was spending the night with Grandma. Later, if they could still work their cell phones, the gang would be calling Uber and getting driven home and poured into their houses or, in the case of sister Celeste, apartments, so there was no need to worry about driving drunk. But Jenna wasn’t a big drinker, even when she was in a party mood, and tonight she was as far from that as a woman could get.
What was there to party about when you were getting divorced and turning (ick!) forty? Still, that mojito was going down pretty easily. And she was inhaling the chips and salsa. At the rate she was going she’d be getting five extra pounds for her birthday as well as a divorce.
“Just think, you can make a whole new start,” said her best friend Brittany. Brittany was happily married with three kids. What did she know about new starts? Still, she was trying to put a good spin on things.
“And who knows? Maybe the second time around you’ll meet a business tycoon,” said Jenna’s other bestie, Vanita.
“Or someone who works at Amazon and owns a ton of stock,” put in Celeste.
“I’d take the stock in a heartbeat,” Jenna said, “but I’m so over men.” She’d given up on love. Maybe, judging from the chewed fingernails and grown-out highlights in her hair, she’d given up on herself, too. She felt shipwrecked. What was the point of building a rescue fire? The next ship to come along would probably also flounder.
“No, you’re over man,” Brittany corrected. “You can’t give up on the whole species because of one loser. You don’t want to go through the rest of your life celibate.” She shuddered, as if celibacy was akin to leprosy.
“Anyway, there’re some good ones out there somewhere,” said Vanita, who, at thirty-six, was still single and looking. “They’re just hiding,” she added with a guffaw, and took another drink of her margarita.
“That’s for sure,” agreed Celeste, who was also looking now that This-is-it Relationship Number Three had ended. With her green eyes, platinum hair, and pouty lips and perfect body, it probably wouldn’t take her long to find a replacement. “Men. Can’t live with ‘em, can’t …” Her brows furrowed. “Live with ‘em.”
Jenna hadn’t been able to live with hers, that was for sure. Not once she learned Mr. Sensitive Artist had another muse on the side – a redhead who painted murals and was equally sensitive. And had big boobs. That had nothing to do with why they were together, Damien had insisted. They were soul mates.
Funny, he’d said the same thing to Jenna once. It looked like some souls could have as many mates as they wanted.
Damien Petit: handsome, charming … rat. When they first got together Jenna had thought he was brilliant. They’d met at a club in the U District. He’d been the darling of the University of Washington Art Department. He’d looked like a work of art himself, with brooding eyes and the perfectly chiseled features of a marble statue. She’d been going to school to become a massage therapist. She, who had never gotten beyond painting tiles and decorating cakes, had been in awe. A real artist. His medium was unrecyclable detritus. Junk.
Too bad she hadn’t seen the symbolism in that back when they first got together. All she’d seen was his creativity.
She was seeing that in full bloom now. Damien had certainly found a creative way to support himself and his new woman – with spousal support from Jenna.
Seriously? She’d barely be able to support herself and Sabrina once the dust settled.
Nonetheless, the court had deemed that she had been the main support of the family and poor, struggling artist Damien needed transitional help while he readied himself to get out there in the big, bad world and earn money on his own. Her reward for being the responsible one in the marriage was to support the irresponsible one. So now, he was living in the basement of his parents’ house, cozy as a cockroach with the new woman, and Jenna was footing the bill for their art supplies. Was this fair? Was this right? Was this any way to start off her fortieth year?
Her sister nudged her. “Hey. Smile. We’re having fun here.”
Jenna forced her lips up. “Fun.”
“You can’t keep brooding about the junk jerk.”
“I’m not,” Jenna lied.
“Yeah, you are. I can see it in your eyes.”
“I know it’s not fair you have to pay him money,” put in Brittany, “But that’s how things work today. You know, women’s rights and all. If men can pay us spousal support we can pay them, too.”
“Since when does women’s rights give your ex the right to skip off like a fifteen-year-old with his new bimbo and you pay for the fun?” Jenna demanded.
It was sick and wrong. She’d carried him for years, working as a massage therapist while he dabbled away, selling a piece of art here and there. They’d lived on her salary supplemented by an annual check at Christmas from his folks, who wanted to encourage him to pursue his dream of artistic success, and grocery care packages from her mom, who worked as checker at the local Safeway. And her grandparents, God bless them, had always given her a nice, fat check for her birthday. Shocking how quickly those fat checks always shrank. Damien drank up money like a thirsty plant, investing it in his art … and certain substances to help him with his creative process.
Maybe everyone shouldn’t have helped them so much. Maybe they should have let Damien become a starving artist, literally. Then he might have grown up and gotten a job.
They’d had more than one discussion about that. “And when,” he’d demanded, “am I supposed to do my art?”
He’d looked heavenward and shaken his head. “As if you can just turn on creativity like a faucet.”
One of Jenna’s clients was an aspiring writer with a family who worked thirty hours a week. She managed to turn on the faucet every Saturday morning.
There was obviously something wrong with Damien’s pipes. “I need time to think, time for things to come together.”
Something had come together all right. With Aurora Benedict, whose mother had obviously watched one too many Disney movies.
Jenna probably should have packed it in long before Aurora came slinking along, admitted what she’d known after only a couple of years into the marriage: that it had been a mistake. But after she’d gotten pregnant she’d wanted desperately to make things work, so she’d kept her head down and kept plowing forward through rough waters.
Now she and Damien were through and it still didn’t look like clear sailing ahead.
“Game time,” Celeste announced. “We are going to see who can wish the worst fate on the scum-sucking cheater. I have a prize for the winner.” She dug in her capacious Michael Kors purse and pulled out a Seattle Chocolates chocolate bar and everyone, including the birthday girl, let out an ooh.
“Okay, I’ll go first,” Brittany said. “May he fall in a Dumpster looking for junk and not be able to climb out.”
“I’ll drink to that,” Jenna said, and did.
“Oh, that’s lame,” scoffed Vanita.
“So, you think you can do better?” Brittany challenged.
“Absolutely,” she said, flipping her long black hair. “May he wind up in the Museum of Bad Art.”
“There’s such a thing?” Jenna asked.
“Oh, yeah.” Vanita grinned.
“Ha!” Celeste crowed. “That would serve him right.”
Jenna shook her head. “That will never happen. To be fair, he is good.”
“Good at being a cheating scum-sucker,” Celeste reminded her, and took a drink.
Vanita tried again. “Okay, then, how about this one? May a thousand camels spit on his work.”
“Or a thousand first-graders,” added Celeste, who taught first grade.
“How about this one? May the ghost of van Gogh haunt him and cut off his ear,” Brittany offered.
Vanita made a face and set down the chip she was about to bite into. “Ew.”
“Ew is right,” Jenna agreed. “But I’m feeling bloodthirsty tonight so I’ll drink to that. I think that one’s your winner,” she said to her sister.
Celeste shook her head. “Oh, no. I can do better than that.”
“Go for it,” urged Brittany.
Celeste’s smiled turned wicked. “May his ‘paintbrush’ shrivel and fall off.”
“And to think you teach children,” Jenna said, rolling her eyes.
Nonetheless, the double entendre had them all laughing uproariously.
“Okay, I win the chocolate,” Celeste said.
“You haven’t given Jenna a chance,” pointed out Brittany.
“Go ahead, try and beat that,” Celeste said, waving the chocolate bar in front of Jenna.
“I can’t. It’s yours.”
Their waiter, a cute twenty something Latino, came over. “Are you ladies ready for another drink?”
“We’d better eat,” Jenna said. Her mojito was going to her head.
Celeste overrode her. “We’ve got plenty of night left. Bring us more drinks,” she told the waiter. “And more chips.” She held up the empty bowl.
“Anything you ladies want,” he said, and smiled at Jenna.
Celeste nudged her as he walked away. “Did you hear that? Anything you want.”
“Not in the market,” Jenna said firmly, shaking her head and making the sombrero wobble. Tonight she hated men.
But, she decided, she did like mojitos, and her second one went down just fine.
So did the third. Olé.